Thursday, May 21, 2009

(Still) Tripping Over Liberal Democracy

Human Rights Commission becomes central front in Ontario Tory leadership race

Those hoping for a lively Ontario Progressive Conservative leadership contest, with definitive matters of policy to debate, may finally have gotten their wish.

After many tranquil weeks Tim Hudak, one of the two individuals with a real opportunity to win this contest, has kicked off a political firestorm by mimicking Randy Hillier's pledge to abolish the Ontario Human Rights Commission.

Christine Elliott -- the other candidate with a realistic chance to win -- opposes the move.

“It would be a gift to the Liberals, one they would exploit as ruthlessly as they did with faith-based funding,” said Elliott. “Just like faith-based funding, this is a policy that was made with the short term goal of winning a leadership campaign. Why on earth would we want to expose ourselves by plunging recklessly into such a controversial issue?”

“If we’re going to beat the Liberals, we have to show better judgment than that.”

Of course, there are numerous good reasons to support the OHRC. Defeating the McGuinty Liberals isn't really one of them.

If anything, the OHRC is becoming a battlefront in this contest between centrist progressive conservatives, like Elliott, and fiscal and social conservatives, like Hudak and Hillier. In a party recently battered by John Tory's election pledge to provide funding to faith-based schools -- something that many Ontarians seem to forgot is actually constitutionally entrenched -- real questions lurk over whether or not the party can afford to embrace any other social conservative-leaning policies.

Elliott and fellow candidate Frank Klees firmly oppose Hudak and Hillier's intention to abolish the OHRC, instead preferring to reform the commission.

The battle lines within the Ontario Progressive Conservatives couldn't more obvious when one examines the prominent endorsements already handed out -- Elliott has collected an endorsement from Conservative Senator Hugh Segal, and Hudak has recieved an endorsement from former Ontario Premier Mike Harris.

Regardless of which side emerges victorious in this tussle over the party's policy in regards to the Ontario Human Rights Commission, the Ontario Tories will have taken a stance regarding the shape and form that Ontario's democracy will take -- one in which an institution arguably used to show state favour will be eliminated in the name of reinforcing the neutrality of the state, and one in which neutrality of the state may be, to some degree, compromised in favour of ensuring a more just society.

One way or the other, the party will have made a statement that won't be easily rescinded.

Other bloggers writing about this topic:

Russ Campbell - "Frank Klees 1, Christine Elliott 0"

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